Shippers are bracing for a further broadside of rate increases in June across multiple trades, as ocean carriers beef up profits ahead of the peak season.
After a period of stability, following hikes of up to 200% in the second half of last year, transpacific carriers are rolling out a raft of new GRIs, effective 1 June.
For example, Hapag-Lloyd is advising its Asia to North America rates will rise by $1,200 per 40ft.
Meanwhile, latest Freightos Baltic Index (FBX) readings for Asia to the US are flat, at $4,840 per 40ft for the west coast and $6,236 per 40ft for the east coast.
The upcoming GRIs will push the index up and, in most cases, shippers outside of contracts are already paying considerably more in the form of premium surcharges to ensure space and equipment.
There was also little change on the FBX readings for Asia-North Europe and Asia-Mediterranean, at $7,734 and $8,053 per 40ft, respectively, but here too shippers are paying significantly more.
“I follow the indices every week, but we can’t even get close to those rates,” one UK forwarder told this week.
“When you talk to the carriers, they just laugh when you quote those spots. The real market is at least 50% higher, and that doesn’t always guarantee you a box release in China,” he added.
And a Chinese forwarding contact told the best rate he could get for a 40ft from Shanghai to Felixstowe, for an end of May shipment, was $14,000 plus an equipment guarantee fee of $1,500.
“There is hardly any space, container availability at the depots is very poor and that rate will be gone by tomorrow,” said the contact.
According to Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime, the knock-on disruption to vessel and equipment capacity from the Suez Canal blockage at the end of March could last into the fourth quarter.
During today’s Global Shippers’ Alliance webinar on the ongoing impact from the six and a half day grounding of the Ever Given, Mr Jensen warned that it could be “at least four to six months to get all of the operational issues out of the system”.
Meanwhile, maritime consultant Drewry said today it expects the “extreme freight rates” on the transpacific and Asia-Europe trades “will last for at least another three to five months”.
It added: “There is also a phenomenon of contagion, where extreme freight rates spread from trade route to trade route. This happened last year, when extreme rates on the transpacific spot market were followed by extreme rates on Asia-Europe. There is strong evidence that the transatlantic trade spot market is next in line.
“For carriers, this means a profit bonanza, for at least another two years.”
Indeed, Cosco Shipping’s posting of a $2.7bn profit for Q1 has been followed by Japanese carrier ONE reporting a profit of $1.8bn for the same period.
Top-ranked carrier Maersk will release its Q1 results on Wednesday.